Political science professor Neovi Karakatsanis' dedication to teaching knows no boundaries -- even international borders.
In her summer course on political science and the European Union, students learn about the EU and then embark on a 15-day voyage to experience it for themselves. In 2007, she accompanied her students to Brussels, Belgium; Luxembourg; Strasbourg, France; and Paris. They met members of the European Parliament, toured buildings such as NATO headquarters, stayed with host families, and explored European culture.
"Our trip was extremely interesting and enlightening," says student Penny Holderbaum. "Dr. K was tireless in her efforts to make the European experience of her students the best it could possibly be. We were very fortunate to have been a part of a trip to Europe under such pleasant, knowledgeable leadership."
Karakatsanis -- whom her students call Dr. K -- also leads IU South Bend's Midwest Model European Union delegation. Each spring students in her Politics of European Integration course study the EU, prepare policy proposals, and then put their knowledge to work at the conference, where they role play EU officials and government ministers, deliberating and debating policies.
"The superb preparation that the IU South Bend teams receive from Neovi and the extensive additional planning sessions are well demonstrated in the awards that students have won at the conference -- including the 'Best Delegation' award in 2001 and 2005," says Alfred J. Guillaume Jr., IU South Bend's vice chancellor for academic affairs.
In addition to the international themes of her courses, Karakatsanis has been instrumental in internationalizing IU South Bend's curriculum. She helped develop minors in international studies and European studies, and as chair of the Overseas Study Subcommittee of IU South Bend's International Programs Committee, she has worked to increase the number of study abroad scholarships at IU South Bend, starting with the creation of the David Starr Jordan Scholarship.
Learning through experience is a staple of Karakatsanis's courses. In her lower-level courses, students complete service-learning projects for nonprofit organizations in the South Bend area. Each of her courses also includes primary research and writing. "I fundamentally strive in all I do to stimulate a genuine interest in learning -- to promote active, participatory learning that students take with them when they leave the classroom in order to transform their lives and the lives of others," she says.
She approaches her classes with an open mind, eager both to share what she knows and to learn from her students. As one of her students wrote in a course evaluation, "Professor Karakatsanis brings a genuine enthusiasm to her subject, which is contagious."
Many IU South Bend students have benefited from Karakatsanis' enthusiasm, knowledge, and guidance. She has served as a research mentor for more than 70 students who have made 16 presentations at conferences and successfully applied for more than $9,000 in IU South Bend SMART (Student/Mentor Academic Research Teams) grants.
She is a faculty advisor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advising Center, where she helps undecided students choose a major, and she often participates in the faculty advising program at IU South Bend's New Student Orientation.
IU South Bend awarded Karakatsanis its 2007 Distinguished Teaching Award. She has also been recognized by the American Political Science Association (Outstanding Teaching in Political Science, 2003), the IU South Bend Student Government Association (Faculty Member of the Year, 2003), and the IU Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET), which inducted her in 2003. Since 1997, she has been a fellow in Princeton University's Southern European Studies Research Group.
"I would highly recommend Dr. Karakatsanis to everyone," one of her students wrote in a course evaluation. "She is the best instructor I have ever had. She is very understanding and easy to talk to, while still expecting you to always do your best."
As Professor and Chair of Political Science Linda Chen says, "She is role model for all of us who strive towards excellence in teaching and learning."